Concert Reviews

  • The Age, 10 August 2012

Latitude 37, Melbourne Recital Centre, Wednesday, August 8

EARLY music specialists Latitude 37 presented the second of their Melbourne Recital Centre concerts featuring Italian and French music of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Titled Exile, this program took its inspiration from the changing fortunes of the Barberini dynasty, one of the most powerful families of Renaissance Italy.

Core members Julia Fredersdorff (baroque violin), Laura Vaughan (violas da gamba) and Donald Nicolson (harpsichord) were joined by guest artist Guy du Blet on percussion.

The trio play on copies of early instruments, using gut strings for violin and gambas to produce an authentic period sound. Much of the program was of canons, ricercare and toccatas, with simple opening themes being restated in layers of increasing melodic and rhythmic complexity. There is much scholarship in their approach to ornamentation and phrasing with their body language and frequent eye contact underscoring a common purpose.

Fredersdorff uses strong, fast bow, plenty of open strings, and the very occasional use of vibrato to produce a direct sound with a vocal quality.

Vaughan had lovely obbligato passages, arpeggiated chords and fluid retaking of her bow. She demonstrated versatility across a number of viols using the more mellow sound of the treble viol as a lovely contrast to the violin.

Guy du Blet added subtle rhythmic drive and some curious effects on a range of drums, bells, cymbals and other instruments.

Nicolson swapped between organ and harpsichord and, with the instruments in close proximity, even managed to play both at once during the opening bracket.

Reviewed by Martin Duffy

  • The Manawatu Standard, 2 September 2011

Knowledge and talent bring Baroque era alive

With their reputation for breathing life back into Baroque masterpieces, Latitude 37 presented a programme featuring German music written in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Indeed, it is to their considerable credit that Latitude 37 have so thoroughly researched their material, so the composers represented included a mixture of the little-known, such as Gottfreid Finger, to Baroque masters such as Buxtehude and JS Bach.

However, such a narrow timeframe means that there is only limited variety within the programme, and the listener is dependent on the differing emotional requirements within each work, rather than the range featured in a selection of music across the different artistic periods.

This aside, however, it cannot be denied that the musicianship among the group was the very finest as Julia Fredersdorff (violin), Laura Vaughan (viola da gamba and lirone) and Donald Nicolson (harpsichord) all proved to be completely at home with both their instruments and their music.

The ensemble were obviously taking as much enjoyment from playing together as they were from their complete conversancy with their music, thus ensuring a performance that created a gloriously, highly distinctive sound that must have come close to a genuine Baroque sound.

Such an opportunity to experience such a masterful display of a love of Baroque music is indeed a rare treat, and it is to the complete credit of Chamber Music New Zealand that Latitude 37 were included in this year’s programme, giving us all the opportunity to revel in the music of the Baroque in all its glory.

REVIEW: Latitude 37                                                                                                 Chamber Music New Zealand Concert Season 2011.                                                            The Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North,                                                        September 2, 2011

Reviewed by Stephen Fisher


  • The New Zealand Herald, 1 September 2011

Concert review: Latitude 37, Town Hall Concert Chamber

On Tuesday, the Melbourne-based ensemble Latitude 37 took an appreciative audience for a most civilized stroll on the wild side in a captivating concert of German Baroque music.

The programme, titled Stylus Phantasticus: A Soundtrack of the Baroque Imagination, suggested that composers back then were closer to today’s jazz musos than their crusty, bewigged portraits might suggest.

Donald Nicolson’s dashing harpsichord stylings certainly made the connection.

Accompanying Laura Vaughan’s sleek viola da gamba lines in a Sonata by Gottfried Finger, Nicolson’s final pages seem to flirt with flamenco. Playing Buxtehude, bobbing his head to the backbeat, his often punchy contributions would have had Earl Fatha Hines nodding in approval.

By himself, in Bach’s E minor Toccata, the New Zealander’s dazzling performance confirmed that, as Glenn Gould once suggested, these pieces were indeed more “modern” than later works by the composer. It was a showcase, too, for Paul Downie’s subtly-voiced instrument, climaxing with an almost orgiastic outburst of E major.

There was also something of a jazz spirit in the way the trio shared their music, leaning into dissonances and floating, free and fanciful, through short Adagio links in the opening Rosenmuller Sonata.

The revelations for me were the minor composers. A Trio by Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, with concise, uncluttered dances, gave the musicians the opportunity to work some exquisite shadings into the Sarabande.

Pachelbel’s popular Canon came across as an elegant jam session, its companion Gigue such a romp that one wondered whether a discreet drumkit was lurking somewhere in the Downie harpsichord.

Despite the fact that seventeenth-century musicians happily adapted their music for whatever instruments were available, a transcription of Bach’s E minor Organ Trio Sonata lacked the clarity and grace of the earlier music, with violinist Julia Fredersdorff occasionally stressed by Bach’s keyboard-style figurations.

Fredersdorff was, however, superb in a C minor Sonata by the eccentric German Heinrich Biber, which also gave Vaughan the chance for translucent chordings on her lirone. Responding confidently to all Biber’s considerable technical challenges, Fredersdorff’s obligatory re-tuning between movements blended effectively with Nicolson’s improv – hip, contemporary, and almost seeming as if it were part of the composer’s original intentions.

What: Latitude 37
Where: Town Hall Concert Chamber, Auckland
When: Tuesday, 15 August 2011

Reviewed by William Dart 


  • Capital Times, 24 – 30 August 2011

Exuberant and Rich

With Latitude 37 we heard virtuosic playing in a chamber music context exhibiting current Baroque practice, streets away from the often indulgent reverence placed on Baroque performance practice twenty or more years ago.

With an improvisatory approach and free, relaxed playing Latitude 37’s performance more closely represented what might have been heard in the original Baroque period.

The three players studied at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, a centre for Baroque performance teaching.

We know from other performances the astonishing virtuosity and excellence of harpsichord Donald Nicolson and here he was teamed with equivalently excellent Australian players in baroque violinist Julia Fredersdorff and viola da gamba and lirone player Laura Vaughan.

It was a fascinating concert of music by mostly little-known 17th century composers.

Their playing was vibrant and involving with a spontaneity that was refreshing and it was especially interesting to hear the rich viola da gamba, alternating with the chordal playing on the lirone from Vaughan.

From one of the well know Italian families, Frescobaldi, we heard the Toccata per spinetta e violini.  An exuberant piece.

The playing throughout was free-spirited with seamless moments of improvisation.

Latitude 37 touring for Chamber Music New Zealand                                                         Ilott Theatre, Wellington, August 17 2011.

Reviewed by Garth Wilshere


  • The Press, Christchurch, 19 August 2011

Free Expression from a Different Age

The instruments listed in the heading of this review identifu the concert as of baroque music.  The programme, colourfully described as “stylus phantasticus”, was of a particular style of early baroque music that was ‘extremely free and uninhibited”.

Latitude 37 used this interpretation not only for the early baroque music that made up the first half, but for the mature baroque items of the second half.

The players, especially harpsichordist Donald Nicolson, used the considerable musical skills to produce music that was often freely improvised and skilfully embellished.  The whole programme was from the vast German repertoire of the time, with familiar names such as Buxtehude, Pachelbel and J.S. Bach, and others such as Erlebach and Gottfried Finger, being lesser-known.

Latitude 37 brought out the huge expressive variety of the 17th century, demonstrating that colourful musical personalities are part of the culture of every age.

The eccentric Heinrich Biber, for example, required the violinist to change the tuning of one of the strings while the harpsichordist improvised around the process.  Interesting, though the musical point of it eluded me.  The performers took liberties, itself true to the spirit of the baroque, by rearranging some of the items, even if not always to my liking.

I couldn’t help reflecting that musicians such as the three who make up Latitude 37 keep alive a culture that has contributed to our own.  Through their musical skill and thoroughness they have brought the culture and its personalities into our awareness of the present.

This was an excellent concert, and a contribution that gives the Christchurch Festival a cultural balance.

Latitude 37 touring for Chamber Music New Zealand                                                  Middleton Grange Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch                                                    18 August 2011

Reviewed by David Sell.


  • The Dominion Post, 17 August 2011

Baroque brought to life delightfully

Musing on this concert, I cast my memory back to the 1980s and the renaissance of interest in authentic practice.

Then, both in concert and on record, there was boundless enthusiasm, questionable technique and wacky theories about just what constituted correctness in performance. In a concert of music such as that heard here, there would have been excruciating pitching, a dry, vibratoless sound and, more often than not, a strange swell in the middle of a phrase. It was greeted with messianic enthusiasm and was diabolical to review.

Not so these days, as complete professionalism built on highly informed teaching, can give us a proper appreciation of just what early music might have sounded like.

The members of Latitude 37 all trained in the Hague under the likes of Ton Koopman, Wieland Kuijken and Enrico Gatti, and all are, more importantly, supremely talented. Donald Nicolson’s wizardry on all keyboard instruments is well known to us, and Julia Fredersdorff on baroque violin and Laura Vaughan on viola da gamba and lirone are similarly impressive. Together, they provided a concert of myriad delights with music from the early days of the Italian baroque as instrumentalists broke free from the tight polyphony of, mostly, church music.

The music – short items from 14 mostly unknown composers – was played with marvellous freedom, superb technical polish and a use of ornamentation that was spontaneously applied. There were some highlights – the Amarilli, mia bella by Giulio Caccini and Toccata per spinetta e violini by Frescobaldi, for example – but the abiding memory for those who ventured out on a wretched night was the superb advocacy from a young group destined to make a huge name for itself.

Latitude 37 (Julia Fredersdorff, Laura Vaughan, Donald Nicolson)

Stile Moderne – The Genesis of the Baroque                                                                        Ilott Theatre, Wellington, August 15 2011

Reviewed by John Button


  • Rotorua Daily Post,12 May 2009

Trio charms audience

At the Concert Chamber last night (11 May) the Baroque instrument trio Latitude 37 charmed the audience and got obvious enjoyment themselves from a programme of engaging 18th Century French, Italian and German music.

The dedication and technical skills of three young Australasian musicians, and hence their name, playing Baroque violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord revealed the colour and expressive power of these instruments.

The gentle tone of this particular harpsichord made it a fine instrument to show off the rhythmic detail in Couperin’s  ‘Little Clock’. Marais’s ‘Le Badinage’ for viola da gamba and harpsichord was a dramatic piece in itself, but it brought out the rich vibrance of the former. The flowing melodies of the French style of trio in the works of Marais, Leclair made a nice contrast to the exuberance of Germans Buxtehude, Telemann and  Becker.

Corelli’s Sonata ‘Follia’ was a revelation, for it disclosed that Vivaldi did not have a monopoly in Italian music on inventive textures and harmonic refinement. Rameau’s Concert Piece had been written as a harpsichord solo with accompaniment by the other two instruments. While these overshadowed the soft keyboard, their combination gave a satisfying balance to the music.

 Reviewed by Hanno Fairburn


  • Bay of Plenty Times, 11 May 2009

A sumptuous feast of divine harmoniesMills Reef [Winery] provided the ideal intimate venue for Sunday night’s Tauranga Musica performance by Baroque trio, Latitude 37. The Trio … recreated the lush and layered sounds reminiscent of the Baroque era with their antique instruments; there were moments during the Corelli sonata where one could vividly imagine courtly dances during the reign of Louis the Sun King: slow, graceful, deliberate movements, enhanced by the voluminous and highly ornate costumes of the time.Not only is each performer within Latitude 37 a superb musician, with in-depth knowledge of the history and structure of his/her instrument, but the sum of their improvised harmonies intertwine to create an exquisite ensemble-repartee.

Each artist shines: in the first set, Fredersdorff’s violin became a central voice, light and luscious, but piqued with sorrow in the second movement of Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata; the haunting resonance of Laura Vaughan’s viola da gamba was further enhanced by her expert use of reverberation in Le Badinage, by Marin Marais; Donald Nicolson’s solo harpsichord, in the final piece by Rameau … not only illuminated the artist’s incredible dexterity, but also revealed his outstanding ability to create great pathos from this delicate instrument, which is as melodic as it is percussive. Latitude 37:  truly a sumptuous feast of divine harmonies.

 Reviewed by Nyree Sherlock


  • Marlborough Express 4 May 2009

Baroque spirit recaptured

Hosted by Marlborough Musical Society, Montana Brancott Winery on Friday, 1 May 2009

“Baroque music is a window to a past era populated by people not unlike ourselves.” Those words paraphrase Donald Nicolson’s summary of baroque in the programme headed International Attitude and distributed to the 80 people who turned up to the Marlborough Musical Society concert by Latitude 37 on Friday evening.

New Zealand harpsichordist Nicolson and Australian musicians Jules Fredersdorff [sic], violin, and Laura Vaughan, viola da gamba, make up Latitude 37. Each has a busy, independent musical career, performing, recording and teaching both internationally and in his or her own country. But on Friday evening, the long, complicated musical scripts by 17th century composers were played with apparent ease, suggesting the performers have spent long hours together honing their skills.

Latitude 37 music is promoted as antipodean interpretations of baroque for 21st-century audiences. Musically untrained myself, I cannot compare their versions to how the sonatas and other compositions were intended by the German, French and Italian composers such as Dietrich Buxtelhude, Francois Couperin, Dietrich Becker and George Phillipp Telemann. But Nicolson’s intricate keyboard skills and the complicated string work Fredersdorff and Vaughan seemed to be doing automatically would surely have pleased the old musical scribes. They were brought alive for me by little stories told by Latitude 37 members before each new item was performed, opening indeed that window to a former era.

A halftime interval prompted many audience members to approach the stage for a closer look at Nicolson’s harpsichord. Soon the musicians had returned and were answering questions and explaining the features and tuning challenges of their old-style instruments.

Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau was the final piece on the programme and long applause for the trio prompted an encore. If the spirit of baroque music was, as Nicolson describes in the programme, not only to please the ear, but to express the sentiments, strike the imagination and command the passions, I believe it was recaptured by Latitude 37.

 Reviewed by Angela Crompton


  • The Age, 4 July 2008

Tasman Crossing of Like Minds


Latitude 37, Dante’s Gallery, Fitzroy, July 2

Tuesday night found two keyboard-centred trios as work close to the CBD.  In Gertrude Streets’ Dante’s Gallery, a new ensemble specialising in period music gave its inaugural recital….

Latitude 37 connects Melbourne with New Zealand and the new early music group takes its name from that feature since one of its members, harpsichordist Donald Nicolson, is active on that country’s musical scene, while the other performers – violinist Julia Fredersdorff and gamba expert Laura Vaughan – are based here.  These talented young artists produced a brief program of sonatas by Buxtehude and Telemann, three Rameau pieces de concert, the popular ground-bass Sonnerie by Marin Marais, and a canzone by Bartolome de Selma y Salaverde.

Latitude 37 played with firm insistence, Fredersdorff’s violin riding over the bass supporting lines with assured projection.  If the performances in general impressed as insistent, the short Rameau excerpts showed an appealing suppleness of dynamic and rhythm, especially from Vaughan who has a reputation as an informed and accurate expert on gamba and lirone.

Reviewed by Clive O’Connell